The impact of urban speed reduction programmes on health system cost and utilities

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Vehicle speed changes impact the probability of injuring a pedestrian in ways that differ from the way that it impacts the probability of a collision or of death. Therefore, return on investment in speed reduction programmes has complex and unpredictable manifests. The objective of this study is to analyse the impact of motor vehicle speed reduction on the collision-related morbidity and mortality rates of urban pedestrians.

Methods and Findings

We created a simple way to estimate the public health impacts of traffic speed changes using a Markov model. Our outcome measures include the cost of injury, quality-adjusted life years (QALYs) gained and probability of death and injury due to a road traffic collision. Our two-way sensitivity analysis of speed, both before the implementation of a speed reduction programme and after, shows that, due to key differences in the probability of injury compared with the probability of death, speed reduction programmes may decrease the probability of death while leaving the probability of injury unchanged. The net result of this difference may lead to an increase in injury costs due to the implementation of a speed reduction programme. We find that even small investments in speed reductions have the potential to produce gains in QALYs.


Our reported costs, effects and incremental cost-effectiveness ratios may assist urban governments and stakeholders to rethink the value of local traffic calming programmes and to implement speed limits that would shift the trade-off to become between minor injuries and no injuries, rather than severe injuries and fatalities.

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